Spins and Streams (10.9.2012)

While all eyes and savvy moviegoers will be looking into space for this week’s Movie of the Week, I am also looking past the stars and wondering what may be out there.  But unlike those who will be wondering about a distant planet a century into the future, I am curious about the little guy who lands in a cornfield and becomes an eternal friend, promising that he will always be “right here.” 

Yes, most will turn to the impressive Blu-Ray release of Prometheus as the home video release of the week, but I am reaching back to the first film I ever saw in a movie theater, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, a film I list as my #5 film of all time, and a defining moment from my childhood. Aligned with Universal Pictures’ 100th anniversary, E.T. debuts with a stunning and virtually flawless Blu-Ray debut, more than 30 years after it debuted in theaters and went on to win 3 Academy Awards.

Moving to present day, one of the most talked about and debated films of the summer is the science-fiction epic Prometheus; a/k/a, No, It Really Is Not A Prequel To Alien Despite The Way The Film Ends And Please Ignore All Of The Other Common Elements Which Exist Between The Two Films …Okay, It Is A Prequel To Alien.

In addition to those two science-fiction films, two big box office bombs from the summer hope to find some reincarnation in the home video market and a charming and stunning Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature arrives and should not be missed.  Some Hitchcock, some classics, a few documentaries, and a grab bag of curious take-a-chance titles drop in stores and streaming accounts.  We try to cover it all in this week’s edition of Spins and Streams!

More than just another column about new home video releases, we will link to reviews, summarize the film, drop in some factual tidbits, and (naturally) offer you a chance to purchase the film (clicking the images and/or links and purchasing the film of interest helps keep the lights on!).

Consider it your weekly trip through the video store, both virtual and physical, scouring the shelves and combing the racks to find something you can enjoy at home, no matter what your personal preferences…

BLU-RAY/DVD

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Anniversary Edition (Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Anniversary Edition

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is, as indicated above, a film that defines my childhood.  I also feel it is one of the greatest films of all time.  While I am not so presumptuous as to believe that the film is going to play as well in 2012 to younger viewers as it did to my 8-year old self in 1982, I nonetheless find it to be a classic that everyone, young and old, should watch at least once.  In an article at Awardscircuit.com this past summer, the staff were asked to identify and talk about their individual selections of the 10 best films of all time.  E.T. ranked #5 on my list.

From my 10 Greatest Films Of All Time article in July 2012:

“The film that made me hate Gandhi. The Ben Kingsley version anyway. In my mind, that stupid Gandhi guy made my first ever Academy Awards viewing experience a nightmare. I cried when E.T. was not named Best Picture and some stupid movie with a guy wearing a sheet was supposedly better. While time and knowledge has allowed me to make a complete 360 on Mahatma Gandhi as a person, and while I am firmly a Ben Kingsley fan, I still hold Sir Richard Attenborough’s esteemed Best Picture winner at more than an arms length. As I write this, I’m kinda hating that Gandhi guy all over again.

E.T. was my first and I loved this film more than anything else. Born in 1974, I did not experience Star Wars on the big screen as we did not have much money to spend even then at the movies, so E.T. was my Star Wars or Toy Story or Titanic or Avatar or even The Avengers. For me, I believed from the first moment to the last. I wanted to be Elliott, I wanted to have this incredible friend show up in my cornfield (I didn’t have a cornfield by the way) and I wanted to keep a secret like this. This film spoke to me, and in all honesty, few films have spoke to me in the same way. E.T. is a film that I think has a place in cinematic history and yet, I find people overlook it as one of those films that parents pull out and share with their children.

There is a magic that Steven Spielberg finds here that few films can ever hope to achieve. This is transformative filmmaking and it is next to impossible to not be swept up in the world it offers you. The notion of an imaginary friend or a secret friend that you have all to yourself is a desire of every child growing up and for a time, Elliott, and we, get to experience what that is like. When the film takes a darker turn, panic and fear sets in.  Until the realization washes over us that friendship and moments shared can last a lifetime, no matter the distance, and E.T. brings up emotions no one truly can be ready for. E.T. strikes a perfect balance of everything we want our movies to be and I love it still as much today as I did as an 8 year old boy eating his first container of movie theater popcorn.”  Family/Science-Fiction, PG, 137 Mins, Dir: Steven Spielberg.

See what else arrives in stores and via streaming services…after the cut!

Prometheus (Blu-ray 3D/ Blu-ray/ DVD/ Digital Copy)
Prometheus (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy)
Prometheus

A polarizing and oft-debated science-fiction epic, Prometheus gets a full-on treatment for its home video unveiling.  The 4-Disc 3D Blu-Ray combo pack features a staggering amount of special features and vignettes, including nearly 40 minutes of extended, alternate, and deleted scenes.  A large number of making of segments and interviews also provide a great deal of insight into why it took so long to bring Prometheus to the big screen.  Personally, I found the film impressive, precocious, and almost too ambiguous for its own good.  

From my ★1/2 theatrical review of June 8, 2012:

“There is very little to balk at in terms of how the film looks, sounds, and feels. Ridley Scott’s film is stellar from a technical standpoint, with flawless melding of CGI and live action effects and beautiful and impressive art direction and ship design. Prometheus is captivating to watch, easy to get lost in, and the score by Marc Streitenfeld is among the finest of the year thus far.

Where Prometheus misses the mark in moving beyond an entertaining and riveting popcorn film is a weak screenplay that raises more questions than it needs to about humanity, creationism, our place in the world and so on. Perhaps there are plans for a Prometheus 2, all but a certainty based on the way the film concludes, but until we have that follow up, we have this and the first hour especially is slow and strangely lacking any drive or passion. A source of great controversy, the screenplay was largely torn apart by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof (Star Trek, “Lost” ) was brought in to orchestrate a significant rewrite. Never boring, but out of balance from the first hour to the second, Prometheus plays a bit of a shell game with its entire premise and alongside stout and impressive ideas rest incomplete and abandoned thoughts.

Yet at the end of the day, Prometheus soars on how much you can take with all of this. There is something here for everyone, as they say. A couple of gory moments will appease the horror fans, those who love suspense/thrillers and science-fiction will be taken by the premise and the second half of the film. Those who like strong heroines will warm to and embrace Noomi Rapace I think, and nostalgic science-fiction fans will spot ties to their beloved Alien franchise and a handful of other science-fiction works they have undoubtedly seen.” Science-Fiction, R, 124 Mins, Dir: Ridley Scott.

A Cat in Paris (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
A Cat in Paris

Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film this year, the gorgeous hand-drawn French film A Cat In Paris arrives on home video after a short theatrical run this year, following February’s Oscars.  Along with Chico & Rita, which arrived on home video two weeks ago, A Cat In Paris received some backlash for landing an Oscar nod, since the film was something no one had ever seen or heard of.  Watching the film, it is very easy to see why the animation branch feted it with a nomination.  Beautifully drawn and incorporating a children’s storybook feel, A Cat In Paris looks unique and stands apart from the now-common CGI and big-budget look and tone of most animated film releases.  The story, a wondrous and Grimm-style fairy tale, centers on a cat, living a double-life as a cat burglar’s assistant, coming to the aid of a father-less little girl named Zoe.  Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol deliver a tightly paced and intoxicating film that features both the original French/subtitled version of the film, along with a strong English language overdub with vocal work from Marcia Gay Harden and Anjelica Huston, among others.  This is a terrific film, I highly recommend it. Family/Animation, PG, 62 Mins, Dir: Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol.

Rock of Ages (Blu-ray/DVD Combo+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Rock of Ages (Movie Only+UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

Rock of Ages (DVD + Ultraviolet Digital Copy)

After its vaunted Broadway run, all eyes were focused on Rock Of Ages as being a breakout success-in-waiting this summer.  Somewhere, somehow things went terribly wrong and other than Tom Cruise receiving great reviews as burned out rocker Stacee Jaxx, all of the excitement was diffused to slightly less than a murmur.  Rock Of Ages is one rambunctious, star-laden affair, featuring a cast including Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige, Cruise, Paul Giamatti, and Diego Boneta, working alongside Hough in the lead roles.  Full of music, critics grew weary of its 123 minute running time and many complained that the magic of the Broadway show was completely lost with director Adam Shankman’s hyper-stylish and overwrought direction.  Haven’t seen it, but will let you know my thoughts when I get a look. Comedy/Musical, PG-13, 123 mins, Dir: Adam Shankman.

Raven [Blu-ray]
Raven

Some liked the gothic wondering of what Edgar Allen Poe’s last days were like, but many would just as soon forget they ever saw The Raven.  Riddled with production delays and problems, John Cusack steps into the role of the iconic poet and author, and director James McTeigue (V For Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) found praise for his film’s look, but little else.  The story centers around a detective working with Poe to help solve the heinous crimes of a mass murderer, who naturally turns his focus on Poe’s girlfriend (Alice Eve).  I will likely see this, but I am not rushing around to make the time.  Too many people I know and trust dismissed it straightaway, so it will likely sit deep in the pile.  Then again, I have huge affection for V For Vendetta and never saw Ninja Assassin.  Hmmm…what to do, what to do, what to do. Horror, R, 110 mins, Dir: James McTeigue.

Shut Up And Play The Hits [Blu-ray]
Shut Up And Play The Hits

Most people are unfamiliar with LCD Soundsystem, so their retirement from music is a little like the “If a tree falls in the forest…” situation.  They did have, and retain, a rabid and loyal fanbase, having made underground, collegiate-based rock, which incorporates elements of dance, punk, and various other styles as well.  Shut Up And Play The Hits documents LCD Soundsystem founder James Murphy’s decision to go out on top, at the height of the band’s popularity, following a concert at Madison Square Garden.  While certainly made for the fans of Murphy and LCD Soundsystem, critics have praised the film’s ability to transcend the fanbase and offer tremendous insight into how fame and acclaim can affect even those who have never reached the zeitgeist of A-list superstardom.  I have only a peripheral knowledge of the band, but am quite interested in seeing how the film plays.  Many feel it is one of the best documentaries of 2012. Documentary/Musical, Unrated, 105 mins, Dir: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

At first, the film resembles a military documentary, but then it travels to a much different place.  Semper Fi: Always Faithful, which is now available on DVD after being available via Netflix streaming for several weeks, is a powerful documentary about how one soldier uncovers devastating truth that led to the leukemia-based death of his 9-year old daughter.  Unearthing a vast Marine cover-up regarding one of the largest water contamination incidents in U.S. history, this 25-year decorated Marine Corps sergeant starts speaking out about the toxins and poisons which may have led to other medical and health problems for countless other Marine families stationed in and around the same base.  A shocking and devastating film which was shortlisted, but not ultimately nominated, for the Best Documentary Feature Film Oscar in 2012.  Documentary, Unrated, 76 mins, Dir: Tony Hardmon, Rachel Libert.

Crazy Eyes

A darkly-tinged comedy/drama centering on the bottomless well of alcohol which can consume folks in staggering measures.  Lukas Haas plays a man, consumed with a girl, Rebecca, he dubs “Crazy Eyes”.  He has a son he rarely sees and spends much of his time in bars, trying to pursue something intimate with Rebecca, all the while stumbling into the same spirals he may never get away from.  I have heard comparisons to Leaving Las Vegas, and this hard-edged uncompromising tale looks interesting to me.  If I get a look, I’ll let you know. Drama, Unrated, 96 Minutes, Dir: Adam Sherman.
ADDITIONAL CATALOG AND NOTEWORTHY BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASES

TELEVISION SERIES/SPECIALS

NOTABLE NEW STREAMING TITLES VIA

To be updated, links not available at time of publication.

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